This week New Jersey resident Ryan Ward pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct related to impersonating New York Yankees pitcher Joba Chamberlain. Also this week, a Florida woman's Corvette was stolen and crashed by a man she believed to be a former Foreigner drummer. When does playing on your natural likeness to a celebrity, or on people's dreams of meeting the members of Foreigner, go too far?
As he told the AP, Ward's spiral began innocently enough--a simple failure to disabuse the mistaken impression by some who encountered him that he was the Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain (dubbed "Joba-the-Hot" by the New York Post). As the Belmar, New Jersey prosecutor told the AP, "[h]e bears an uncanny physical likeness to him."
Free drinks and food sent to his table? Sure. Requests for autographs? Why not. Star-struck women believing they were passing the evening with a Yankee fastballer? "There were many," states Ward. A "pretty good" pitcher himself in his teenage years, Ward reportedly drew too much attention to himself by suggesting he was Chamberlain in order to score free bagels. Soon area hot-spots got wise and the jig was up.
In Florida, Eric Hook, operating as "Cory James," one of iconic rock band Foreigner's former drummers, reportedly swept a woman off her feet and out of her Corvette, which he crashed shortly thereafter. As Yahoo News points out, Foreigner "has had more than a half dozen drummers over the years, none of whom were named Cory James."
By no means a Foreigner purist, according to Tampa's WTSP, Mr. Hook has also played Eric Clapton's drummer (who needed to steal a car to pick up Clapton) and Van Halen's manager (who needed to steal a hairstylist's money).
What crimes did these men commit? For Hook, currently there are charges including simple grand theft auto and destruction of property. Whether as a faux Foreigner drummer or simply as yourself, stealing someone's Corvette and wrecking it is a crime (multiple, actually).
Ward pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct for his Joba Chamberlain performances, but initially faced possible charges for "theft by deception" under New Jersey law. As in many states, in New Jersey, theft by deception means gaining control over someone's property through deception. Deception is defined to encompass several forms, including "failing to correct a false impression which the deceiver previously created or reinforced."
Introducing yourself as Foreigner's old drummer obviously creates a false impression. There is a slippery slope, however, between Ryan Ward's first forays as Joba Chamberlain and Eric Hook's alleged bold-faced Foreigner fakery. It lies in the reinforcement of false impressions--in deciding not to say "I am not Joba Chamberlain."
Hollywood impersonators in turf war with vendors (San Jose Mercury News)
Disorderly Conduct (FindLaw)